Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

If My Life Were A McMusical

Let’s take a trip down my musical memory lane.

The earliest piece of melody that I can remember (or it feels like the earliest) is The Beatles’ “Obla-di, Obla-da”. My memory of it is not really the recorded song but its melody—maybe when I was a kid I heard a cover version of it (during the 60s it was commonplace to find several covers of one song). Even before any nursery rhyme or bedtime lullaby, it was a song by John, Paul, George and Ringo which stuck in my mind first. So I’m not surprised why I instantly took to The Beatles, and they still remain up to this day my all-time favorite act. Back then it took months, maybe even a year, for a song from overseas (namely, the U.S.) to make its way here in the Philippines; that was pre-satellite and Internet days, kids. We were still living in an apartment in Cubao, so that must have been 1967-68.

The next oldest song/s I remember is the soundtrack of the movie The Sound of Music. Back then my dad had an open-reel tape player and a copy of the soundtrack on tape. He playing it every Sunday morning; I’d wake up to the sound of the overture swelling then Julie Andrews’ golden voice riding on top of it with a triumphant, “The hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiills are a-liiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive! With the sound of muuuuuuuuuuu-siiiiiiiiiiiic…!” I really liked “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Mi”; I found “I Am Sixteen Going On Seventeen” and “Edelweiss” gently melancholic. I know my mom loved the movie and my dad’s not a big fan of movies, so I guess he played the soundtrack every weekend for her. My dad was more into Latin dance music (the samba and rumba music of Prez Prado and the like) plus a lot of Matovanni, James Last and his favorite, Ray Coniff. Those three did nothing but cover songs by other artists in a “big band” style—full brass and rhythm sections with lots of snazzy drumming; they insisted on calling them an “orchestra”—and had their own group of singers. Growing up I enjoyed listening to them, until that fateful day when I realized that I was listening to “fakes”; by that time I was also moving into rock and roll via The Beatles.
(This is what an open-reel tape recorder and player looks like.)

Obviously after the Fab Four broke up, I followed their individual careers. Ringo didn’t do much. George was still into sitars and spiritual blah-blah with “My Sweet Lord” (which I first heard as a Ray Coniff version) so that turned me off. John was becoming more militant, which also was a turn off. So that meant Sir Paul with his silly and very accessible love songs. After The Beatles the next set of albums I collected (back then I could only afford cassette tapes) were by Paul McCartney and Wings (later on shortened to Wings).

Also around that time my uncle brought home a long-playing vinyl album that still remains to this day a classic favorite of mine. It was “Rhythm of the Rain” by The Cascades, and I swear for a time it seems like every Filipino household had a copy of that album, whether in LP or cassette form. No wonder a second incarnation of The Cascades still managed to draw in sizeable crowds in several (!) concerts here in Manila.

By the early 70s I had discovered the American Top 40 with Casey Kasem on radio (first on AM, then it moved to FM) and with it—disco! I liked every song KC and The Sunshine Band released, from “Shake Your Booty” to “I’m Your Boogie Man”.

I also was a huge fan of the songs of The Village People, though at that time I really thought that the song “Macho Man” was an ode to working out, “In The Navy” a tribute to the naval forces, and “Y.M.C.A.” a paean to a youth gym/hostel and male companionship (“You can hang out with all the boys!”). Boy, was I so naïve—and closeted—then.

Also in the 70s was an album that stayed at number one for the longest time (then) and generated several top 40 hits. “Rumours” was my introduction to Fleetwood Mac, which to this day remains one of my favorite bands.

But it’s no surprise that the next band whose albums I started collecting was another rock and roll band that copied heavily from The Beatles. Electric Light Orchestra, or E.L.O., was a traditional rock and roll band with an additional string and wind section of an orchestra thrown in (plus an occasional operatic aria or two by a back-up choir). But its chief founder and singer-songwriter Jeff Lynne cribbed a lot from the Fab Four (“Mr. Blue Sky” sounds like the interlude of “A Day In The Life” while the drums of “Don’t Bring Me Down” is lifted from the reprise of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”). It’s fitting that years later he would produce an album for George Harrison and, with the death of John Lennon, the last two official Beatles releases, “Free As A Bird” and “Real Love”.

By the time the 80s rolled in, I was also into a lot of dance music as well. And with the second British invasion in the 80s, I started collecting albums by Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Depeche Mode, The Police, Culture Club. Madonna was my very first female artist whose albums I started collecting. I began to notice Michael Jackson with his “Off The Wall” album, but I became an instant fan with “Thriller” his mega-monster hit. I already bought the re-mastered Special Edition released in 2001 so I’m not too keen on getting the recently released 25th anniversary edition (with matching bonus tracks and DVD).

With the emergence of the Internet and the further segmentation of music, it’s very difficult to find artists whose appeal can cut across different groups of people. So more and more I find people’s taste in music to be highly individualized and very specific. Still, “music makes the people come together,” according to Madonna.

So what was your music when you were growing up?


Nelson said...

Music from the 70s that I loved: the Carpenters, the BeeGees, the Cascades, Abba (The Winner Takes It All), and The Dooleys.

The 80s came, and I became a Eurorock new wave junkie (Tears for Fears, Culture Club, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, etc). However, on the American side, I became entranced with this up and coming tart who went by a single name, and danced coyly on a gondola gliding through Venetian canals.

I had my flings with Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Gibson, and Rick Astley.

My last years in high school were spent memorizing Miss Saigon, Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera.

In college during the 90s, I collected CDs of Julia Fordham and the OPM band Truefaith. I liked the early Eraserheads (their sound was so raw and original!).

There's nothing much in the early 2000s that I liked. I've gone rather eclectic -- film scores, choral, a capella, acoustic, and light jazz. Lately I like Amy Winehouse, but I find her such a novelty.

By the way, I recommend you get the 2 CD soundtrack of Across the Universe. Beatles songs done by the cast! Absolutely fabulous!

joelmcvie said...

OMG, how could I have forgotten ABBA?! Thanks Nelz, for the reminder.

Then again, Abba was just all over the place back then. Their songs were so prevalent, I didn't feel the need to buy their album, LOL! (But I eventually did much, much later on.)

Oh yes, a friend of mine gave me the "Across The Universe" OST. I'm not too fond of some of the interpretations, but hey, they're still Beatles songs.


Musically, I'm a child of the early to mid 90s. That means Rick Dees and the Weekly Top 40, Mariah-Janet-Whitney-Madonna, Grunge, Boygroups (Boyz II Men, Shai, etc.), Girlgroups (TLC, En Vogue, etc.), Two Hit Wonders from Europe (Ace of Base, Shakespeare Sisters, etc.), and unadulterated pop music.